[Talk-us] USA Rail: a progress report

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Tue Apr 7 16:26:22 UTC 2015

I haven't (tediously) added up all the track-miles, but I would 
estimate that at the Amtrak level, USA Rail is perhaps 75% - 80% 
complete.  However, this optimistic number comes with caveats:

1)  While most (26 out of 43) Amtrak routes are "complete," for the 
great majority of these, the completion is only for 
public_transport:version=1 not 2, as is the longer-term goal.  Of the 
remaining 17, 15 are mostly or substantially complete, except for 
Texas Eagle, which needs a lot of work from Arizona eastward.  But 
two are not even "stubbed in" yet:  the Shuttle, and the 
rather-complex-to-call-a-single-thing Northeast Regional routes. 
Wouldn't you know, these last 20% are going to be the most tedious 
and difficult, as "just" these two routes represent our most complex 
route data yet to enter.

2)  The "higher level" route=train relations described above might be 
about 80% done, but the "middle level" (infrastructure) route=railway 
relations of named Subdivisions still need lots of work -- we are 
only at maybe 35% completion.  Looking at OpenRailwayMap (which shows 
usage= tags as red/yellow/orange for high-speed/mainline/branch 
rail), we see that the USA is enjoying better coverage and 
connectivity, but still has many "bald patches."  Also, just because 
a usage= tag is applied to a rail segment doesn't mean its name= tag 
is correct nor does it mean that all identically-named rail segments 
are collected together into an infrastructure (route=railway) 
relation -- all three should be true to say that rail is well-tagged 
in OSM.

3)  Only one or two states (California and Montana, the latter is 
pretty sketchy) boast their own statewide rail wiki pages.  Sure, 
efforts to better tag rail can (and do!) take place in other states, 
but there is nothing like a wiki to measure/share progress and "divvy 
up the work" where everybody can participate using our wiki method. 
You can improve USA rail without a wiki, but in my opinion 
(especially when there is more than one person in a state pushing the 
same boulder uphill) it really does make things easier:  document, 
keep track, don't duplicate efforts, and get that great feeling of 
checking off something as Done when you get to 100%.

4)  Even some of the routes marked "Complete" might still be kind of 
rough:  stations and platforms may not be correct or fully fleshed 
out, underlying infrastructure might not be correctly named or tagged.

In short (too late!), OpenPublicTransportMap is a "fair" illustration 
of our Amtrak and more-local route=train relations, with perhaps 85% 
visual coverage.  We are getting there!  Infrastructure 
(route=railway) relations lag far behind this, at about 35% 
completion.  Though California can again boast that our 
infrastructure is "early alpha" and maybe 97% complete, though not 
completely accurate -- work continues.

The major still-to-do tasks in fixing up USA rail continue to be these:

1)  Change TIGER name= tag to operator=, then issue a new correct 
name= tag (like "XYZ Subdivision"),
2)  Add a usage= tag like main or branch.  This makes the 
infrastructure "light up with color" in ORM, and
3)  Collect identically named rail segments together into a 
route=railway (infrastructure) relation.

After 3) it's almost a cinch to combine infrastructure together into 
route=train relations (like Amtrak), at least 
public_transport:version=1.  We do have some 
public_transport:version=2 relations to serve as good examples, so 
you really could even roll up your sleeves and do those, too!  This 
isn't about getting detailed passenger rail SCHEDULES into OSM, just 
rail infrastructure and routes.  Any volunteers?!  See 
http://wiki.osm.org/wiki/Amtrak and call "Dibs!" on a route or two!

Given the rather dismal state of rail data from our poorly aging 
TIGER import, I must ask the august readers of this list:  How 
complete and correct is rail tagging in YOUR state?


(I think that's called "cheerleading," and I'm not terribly 
embarrassed for having done so)

More information about the Talk-us mailing list